Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Max Whitlock Recapped: The All-Around at the 2013 European Championships

Let me refresh your memory. Since there isn't another major meet until the 2016 Rio Olympics…

I've decided to do a thorough recap of the all-around competition at the European Championships. On Monday, we discussed (and maybe drooled over) David Belyavskiy, and today, it's Max Whitlock's turn. As you might recall, he finished second behind David and ahead of Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev.


2. Max Whitlock

Max Whitlock waddled his way into the all-around final by performing a pike-open Yurchenko 2.5
into a duck walk…
Or maybe he genuflected into a "Tebow." (I'm not "straight enough" to understand American football references.) At any rate, his vault wasn't cute, and Max received a 14.433, while his major competitors were scoring in the 15.4/15.5 range.

Needless to say, no one wants to start a meet this way, but for Max, a poor vault score--which, in my opinion, should have been even lower--could have made the difference between first place and second place. You see, Max is not a particularly strong all-arounder. Sure, he's swoonable on floor and pommel horse, and he's so-so on parallel bars, high bar, and vault. But when it comes to rings, he's praying to Nadia and all the gymnastics saints just to get by.

For my readers who are women's gymnastics fans, think of Max as the Aly Raisman of the men's all-around. Rings are to Max what bars are to Aly. And just as Aly needs to eek out as many tenths as possible on the other three events in order to compensate for her belabored bars routine, so too does Max need to eek out as many tenths on the other five events in order to compensate for his weak rings routine.

Max was able to do that on parallel bars. Now, I'm not going to lie. Max's parallel bars routine is not so sublime that it will make you ugly cry. But Max did the best he could, and his routine has a few fun skills: a straddle 5/4 to upper arms and a good back toss to single-rail handstand. Plus, he stuck his double pike dismount for a 14.966.

On a good day, with an improved vault, Max's parallel bar score would have kept him closer to the leaders, but after two rotations, Max found himself 1.001 behind David Belyavskiy and 0.834 behind Oleg Verniaiev. Had I been in Max's shoes at this point in the competition, I would have felt like this baby elephant…
…and I would have probably given up. But just as the baby elephant got up and brushed the dust off his back, so too did Max, and it was on to high bar for him.

On Monday, I griped about David Belyavskiy's boring high bar routine, but seriously, for the love of Epke Zonderland and everything that's sacred, the European all-arounders need to make their high bar routines more exciting! I mean, a Yamawaki isn't going to get you the chicks, and if it does, those chicks are easy. (By the way, if you're gay, it isn't going to help you get the dudes either.)

Unfortunately, Max's high bar routine is no exception to the mediocrity that is European all-around high bar. Having said that, I should note that Max's routine, when compared to Belyavskiy's, is slightly more enjoyable. At least Max attempts to add some pizzazz to his routine. He flairs his arms on his hop full (called a Quast) and on his hop 1.5 (called a Rybalko), and he makes an effort to maximize his extension when he shoots his legs out on his jam. Those little things help.

Anyway, moving on… Unlike high bar, floor is a dynamic rotation for Max. He opens with a back 3.5 to a front full, which he follows up with a back 2.5 to a Rudi, which eventually leads to the best part of his routine: his flair sequence! SWEET MERCIFUL MOTHER OF NEMOV! AMEN!

It's important to note that most gymnasts kind of wuss out on these twisting passes by doing a Barani as one of their saltos. Pardon the exclamation, but LAME! Max, however, really sets himself apart by doing more than what's called for on his combination tumbling passes. His 15.500 on floor was the highest score on the event during all-around finals, and it was much deserved.

Max's pommel horse routine scored a 15.366, also a high score on that event during the competition. It goes without saying that Max's horse routine is all kinds of hot. Like, I had to take a cold shower after watching it--it was that hot, and men's gymnastics usually doesn't make me feel that way. This is not to say that it was perfect. He probably gave up a few tenths on his dismount and his traveling skills, where his belly button and shoulders turn away from the end of the horse. Even so, it's all kinds of hot. 'Nough said.

Okay, Math Nerds, shriek with glee and get out your abacuses because this post is about to get number heavy… After 5 rotations, Max was only 0.268 behind David. That amount is surmountable, for sure. But in order for Max to be the Champion of all of Europe, Max needed an error from David, and on top of that, he needed to be practically perfect because his 5.5 difficulty score was about to go up against David's 5.7 difficulty.

Max's rings routine is by no means hard, but it is certainly hard for him. And unfortunately, his struggle manifests itself in various ways: swinging rings, for example, or his body position on his first uprise to planche. Though his second strength move, another uprise to planche, was much better than the first, his routine lacks strength elements that will impress the judges. Boy needed to learn an iron cross or two, like yesterday. That said, he's not a bad swinger, and in an era of Yamawakis and Jonassons, I'm liking his Guczoghy (a double back between the rings). It breaks up the humdrum of seeing the same swing elements over and over and over and over again.

The judges, however, weren't impressed by a series of uprises to planches and press handstands--as they shouldn't be--and they awarded him a 14.208, Max's lowest score of the competition. In the end, Max finished 0.693 behind Belyavskiy with an 89.106 in the all-around. You know, silver ain't bad, especially when it is your first all-around performance at the European Championships. So, cheers, Max!

By the way, Max, you and I need to sit down one of these days and have a serious chat about the possibility of performing your air flair on pommels.
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. It'll get you all the chicks, and as a gay man, trust me, I know a thing or two about getting chicks.

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  1. Oh my god, I would die and go to happyland if Max did his air-flair on pommels. I probably wouldn't make out with him, because my heart belongs only to Huntingdon gymnasts, but I WOULD officially swoon.

    Speaking of Huntingdon gymnasts, will you be giving your opinion on Dan Keatings out-executing Berki?

  2. Great recap! Max would have won had he not Tebowed his vault, right?